In a battle of two unbeaten NHL teams, the New Jersey Devils prevailed on Wednesday, handing the Toronto Maple Leafs a 6-3 defeat. And Mike Babcock was not pleased.
After the game, Babcock said his team (now 3-1-0) was “skated into the ground” by the upstart Devils.
“Hockey’s fair, you get what you deserve,” Babcock said. “We got what we deserved tonight.”
Multiple Maple Leafs saw a serious difference in the speed of the 3-0-0 Devils, yet they also consistently admitted that they were out-played.
If that’s true, then Cory Schneider was far busier on paper than he was in reality.
The Devils goalie faced 50 shots on goal as the Maple Leafs went 2-for-8 on the power play (the Devils, meanwhile, fired 31 shots on Frederik Andersen and went 1-for-5). Some of that might boil down to “score effects.” Even so, you have to think that some puck luck and strong work from Schneider factored into some of that.
Fresh faces power Devils once again
Not every young Devils player who factored into this win qualifies as a rookie. Most of them count as inexperienced, though.
Take Miles Wood, for instance.
Yes, this marked the 63rd game of the 22-year-old’s career, but he’s still the sort of name that will make you do a double-take in seeing him score two goals in less than two minutes, as he did on Wednesday.
(Interestingly, he was a guy who could generate random offense in 2016-17. He managed two goals in one game against the Flyers, three points in four games in early January, and three goals in five games in December last season. That’s a big chunk of the 17 points he managed in 60 contests.)
Pavel Zacha is probably a more mainstream name as the sixth pick in 2015, but the 20-year-old is still finding his way. Wednesday was promising in that regard, as he scored two goals of his own.
Jesper Bratt continues to make (more than a funny) name for himself in adding an assist, while Will Butcher continues to live up to the early hype with two more assists.
History that will make Babcock especially mad
Brian Gibbons, 29, likely spiked Babcock’s blood pressure the most on Wednesday, scoring a rare shorthanded goal in a 5-on-3 situation.
How rare? The Devils tweeted that this was the first time it’s happened for them during the regular season:
Rare goals like those are something of a red flag, at least for Devils fans who are getting too ahead of themselves. (Don’t place any reckless bets just yet.)
Still, the Devils might be onto something if they choose to evoke the Penguins, an organization that once employed GM Ray Shero and head coach John Hynes.
On paper, New Jersey has one of the worst defense corps in the league. They’ve added a slew of promising forwards, especially if they have rookies beyond the obvious in Nico Hischier. After a tough 2016-17, many also believe that Schneider can bounce back to his top-10 form, maybe placing the Devils in a spot where their goalie can clean up some mistakes.
So, if some of the anger from the Maple Leafs revolves around their perception of their opponent, that might be unfair. And, really, they might be a little too harsh on their efforts, overall.
Then again, maybe Babcock’s merely wise in trying to keep his team’s rising ambitions in check?
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.
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